Long Beach looking to expand homeless outreach program by end of year, officials say 

View Original Notice ? Long Beach looking to expand homeless outreach program by end of year, officials say 

Long Beach’s homeless outreach program — launched about a year ago — may soon expand, city officials said recently.

The City Council, according to Mayor Robert Garcia, is currently looking at increasing funding in next year’s budget to expand the Restorative Engagement to Achieve Collective Health program, otherwise known as REACH.

That program diverts non-life-threatening service calls related to those who are homeless away from the Police and Fire departments. Instead, a team of clinicians and case workers respond, providing folks in need with a direct line to resources for temporary or permanent housing, mental and physical health services, and other forms of help.

“If we know there is a person that is unhoused, perhaps at an encampment, having serious issues,” Garcia said during a press conference this week, “instead of having a police officer come to assist that person or move them, we can now have a dedicated outreach van to go work with that person directly.”

The city identified 2,034 people who were homeless in 2020. Long Beach canceled its point-in-time homeless count last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the results of the 2022 tally, which took place in February, are expected to be released this month.

Two teams, each composed of one public health nurse, one mental health clinician and two homeless services outreach workers use the city’s REACH vans to respond to calls that require their expertise, said Kelly Colopy, director of Long Beach’s Health and Human Services Department.

The Long Beach Police Department’s emergency lines determine which calls are appropriate for the REACH teams, whose vans are equipped with triage gear to handle emergencies that aren’t life threatening.

LBPD received nearly 12,000 calls to respond to homeless encampments from 2018 to 2020, Colopy said during the Monday, June 27, press conference — 96% of which resulted in non-criminal outcomes.

“The REACH teams are a key component in ending the cycle of homelessness,” Colopy said, adding that they provided “an alternate option that reduces the impacts to the city’s emergency response system for calls about encampments.”

Since August, the program has responded to 587 service calls, Colopy said Monday. During those, 87 people received long-term emotional and physical health care through the REACH team.

The City Council, meanwhile, is looking to expand the program — including providing two additional outreach vans — via this year’s budget, Mayor Robert Garcia said.

The city’s next fiscal year begins in October.

“We’re hoping that in this year’s budget cycle, that we’ll actually be able to do that,” Garcia said. “I think there’s an expectation, the council has talked about it and I’m certainly interested, if we’re able to expand the REACH team by at least one, if not two units — that would be great.”

It will cost an estimated $500,000 to fund each new REACH team, Colopy said on Thursday. The program is currently paid with money from the city’s general fund and Measure H, a voter-approved countywide sales-tax initiative that provides money for projects meant to address the ongoing homeless crisis.

The additional staffing, Garcia said, would also allow the REACH teams to expand their operating hours to the weekend.

Currently, the REACH teams only operate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Calls made to REACH after 4:30 p.m. are reviewed the next day, according to a city press release, and prioritized based on urgency.

Colopy on Monday also urged Long Beach landlords with available units to do their part in helping the city’s homeless population by accepting city-funded housing vouchers.

As it stands, she said, nearly 400 people without permanent shelter have housing vouchers but aren’t able to find a place that will accept them. An additional 100 people with vouchers are at risk of becoming homeless, Colopy said.

“Those with vouchers receive case management and other services while they’re in housing and we have landlord incentives to make it easier,” Colopy said. “We encourage you to be part of the solution — you can make a very big difference, as these people have the opportunity to be permanently housed with your support.”

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